Appearing on a Friday afternoon Fox News broadcast, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) suggested that House Republicans may direct the House Sergeant at Arms to arrest Attorney General Eric Holder, provided they exhaust all other options for obtaining Justice Department documents that are now protected under executive privilege.
“If you actually look at the statute… [it] does say that you shall do this,” he explained. “And they’ll say, well, the precedent is that it hasn’t been done in the past. Again, we’ve got to get past this so-called precedent and do what the law says. The law says [the Sergeant at Arms] shall pursue it, so [Holder] has got a difficult situation on his hands.”
Interrupting him, Fox News host Megyn Kelly noted that “there is an option” before House Republicans that could see Holder arrested. “You gonna do that?” she asked.
“That would be fairly dramatic, but yes,” Chaffetz said. “Three options: going through the U.S. attorney, going into civil court or have the Sargent at Arms take control of the situation — which I think some people are going to say we ought to do — but we’re going to exhaust the other ones first.”
While he is correct that a contempt citation could lead to an official being arrested, it has never happened before in U.S. history. Even during the Bush administration, when prominent Republicans were held in contempt, the House leadership refused to go that far.
And even if Republicans did direct the Sergeant at Arms to arrest Holder, they would be unable to prosecute him. Because President Barack Obama has exercised executive privilege over the documents being sought by House Republicans, the Justice Department explained in a letter sent Friday that it “will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General.”
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